Short for "Contemporary Exotica Rock Orchestra," Tokyo's Cero combine wide-ranging sounds -- indie, jazz, hip-hop, and Brazilian music, among others -- into their own distinctive style. While 2012's My Lost City reflected a healthy appreciation for shoegaze and dream pop, Cero's clever collages also hinted at their affection for Shibuya-kei and the "city pop" movement of the late '80s and early '90s. As Cero became more eclectic, they also became more successful; albums such as 2015's acid jazz-inspired Obscure Ride and 2018's ambitious Poly Life Multi Soul reached the upper echelons of the Oricon charts.
Frontman Shohei Takagi and keyboardist Yu Arauchi formed Cero in 2004 along with founding drummer Tomoyuki Yanagi. During their early days, their influences included eclectic indie acts such as Phoenix and the Avalanches, as well as homegrown legends like Haruomi Hosono of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Happy End. With guitarist Tsubasa Hashimoto joining in 2006, Cero took a while to develop their music. In 2008, they collaborated with the Moonriders' Keiichi Suzuki on a track for Strange Songbook (Tribute to Haruomi Hosono 2). Two years later, Cero issued their debut single, "It Will Rain in the Sunny City of the 21st Century," which also appeared on the 2011 full-length World Record. Shortly after the album's release, Yanagi left the group to focus on his career as an illustrator. His artwork appeared on the cover of the band's second album, 2012's shoegaze-tinged My Lost City, which reached number 33 on the Oricon chart.
Cero's growing success allowed them to experiment and explore, and their third album, Obscure Ride, combined influences as varied as funk, acid jazz, and Indonesian shadow puppetry. Featuring the hit single "Summer Soul," the album hit number eight on the Oricon charts. At the following year's Space Shower Music Awards, Cero were named Best Alternative Artist. For their fourth album, Cero incorporated ambitious arrangements, harmonies, and polyrhythms as well as touches of hip-hop, Brazilian pop, and Afro-beat. Arriving in May 2018, Poly Life Multi Soul debuted at number four on Oricon. ~ Heather Phares